Bruce Springsteen’s “American Skin (41 Shots).”


Musically, the year 2014 has started slowly. It isn’t unusual.

Historically, in January there is a tendency for me to delve into classical and jazz, and so it has been again this year; high points to date include a Louisville Orchestra performance (and a forthcoming Kentucky Center Chamber Players gig at U of L on Super Bowl Sunday) as well as a happenstance reconsideration of trumpeter Sonny Berman. The pop/rock realm usually waits until February, and may have something to do with my need to be charged properly for Gravity Head’s onslaught.

Bruce Springsteen’s new album, High Hopes, is a hodge-podge collection of newly recorded covers, unreleased material and older songs freshly re-imagined. What makes it most interesting is the presence of guitarist Tom Morello, formerly of Rage Against the Machine. A generation removed from the Boss, Morello also inhabits political terrain to the left of his elder. The result isn’t Jay-Z, but then again, this is my blog, and I wouldn’t know a Jay-Z song if I tripped over it on the street.

The Springsteen-Morello partnership works quite well on an electrified “The Ghost of Tom Joad” (originally recorded acoustically in 1995), and the venerable “American Skin (41 Shots).” The latter originally was penned by Springsteen to address the shooting death of Amadou Diallo by New York City police in 1999. Several versions were released, and then it returned to the stage set following the killing of Trayvon Martin.

It’s far too early to tell whether High Hopes will rank among my most-listened-to releases of 2014. Still, there is something undeniably comforting to me about Bruce Springsteen’s unflagging work ethic. In a nation filled with angry white guys, it’s actually possible to be angry for the “left” reason.